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February 12, 2007

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Integrity in Science Watch

Week of 02/12/2007

Breaking the Silence

Ear & Hearing Journal is planning to set the record straight on a study that found firefighters' hearing loss could not be linked to repeated exposure to emergency sirens, after court documents revealed that one of the study's authors had financial ties to emergency equipment manufacturer Federal Signal Corp. At the time the study was published in June 2005, author William W. Clark of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis failed to disclose that he had received consulting fees and assistance with the study from Federal Signal. Now, Mario A. Svirsky, editor-in-chief emeritus for Ear & Hearing, says the journal will publish a clarification in an upcoming issue explaining that Clark's ties to Federal Signal should have been disclosed. Svirsky said the journal's editorial board is waiting for lawyers to sign off on the clarification, noting that Clark had threatened to sue the journal.

Clark's relationship with Federal Signal first came to light as part of a lawsuit filed by Chicago firefighters against the company. As a result of a court order handed down last week, Clark has been barred from testifying as an expert witness in 33 pending cases and his study cannot be submitted as evidence. The court also ordered Federal Signal to pay the firefighters $50,000 for attempting to cover up their involvement in the study. "This is a tremendous victory for the ... firefighters and rightfully acts to keep questionable science and undisclosed conflicts of interest from the courtroom," plaintiffs' attorney Raymond Lang wrote in an e-mail communication to Integrity in Science Watch.

FDA Whistleblowers to Testify Before House Panel

Several critics of the Food and Drug Administration are scheduled to testify Tuesday at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the agency's efforts to ensure the safety of the nation's drug supply. The hearing is expected to include discussion of the agency's approval of the drug Ketek, an antibiotic that has side effects linked to liver failure and damage. FDA officials announced today that they would restrict use of the drug and require Ketek manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis to place a warning label on the product. Sen. Chuck Grassley (-R-Iowa), FDA staffer David J. Graham, former FDA medical officers John H. Powers III and David B. Ross, Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven E. Nissen and Ann Marie Cisneros of Keteck manufacturer Sanofi Aventis are scheduled to testify.

Drug Industry Influences National Anti-smoking Policies

At least six members of a 26-person panel that will write the nation's anti-smoking guidelines have ties to industry, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reported last week. Among them is panel chairman Michael Fiore, who holds a chair at the University of Wisconsin that is funded by GlaxoSmithKline, maker of Nicorette gum and Commit lozenges; directs a tobacco research center that received about $1.4 million from anti-smoking drug manufacturers in 2004 and 2005; and personally received between $10,000 and $40,000 annually from the quitting-aid industry from 1999 to 2004. Fiore's drug company connections went undisclosed in at least two articles he authored on smoking cessation.

The Wall Street Journal article also noted that Jack Henningfield, a principal at a consulting firm whose largest client is GlaxoSmithKline, is often quoted as a smoking cessation expert without disclosing his ties to the pharma giant.

Climate Program Chief Addresses Censorship Allegations

The Bush administration has directed federal agencies to review and, if appropriate, modify their policies on scientific review and media relations to "ensure government scientists do not face censorship on any scientific matter," Bill Brennan, acting director of the federal Climate Change Science Program said last week. The commitment came during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing called to probe allegations that federal climate-change scientists have faced political pressure to alter their work and have been restrained from talking to the press. Tom Knutson, a climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., testified that he had not faced any interference with respect to publishing his work in scientific journals, but he had been prevented from participating in some television interviews.

Former Colorado U. Teacher Drops Wrongful Termination Claims

A former environmental studies instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder has dropped a wrongful termination complaint that alleged the university dismissed her because her research targeted illegal pollution by major Colorado companies, the Colorado Daily reported last week. Adrienne Anderson decided not to pursue her claims after learning that she could not enter as evidence correspondence in which officials working for then-Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (R) complained to CU officials about Anderson's use of her university e-mail account to name the alleged polluters. However, Anderson said the American Association of University Professors would continue to press her case, "requesting a national investigation of CU's failure to protect my academic freedom."

Cheers and Jeers

  • Cheers and Jeers: The New York Times disclosed Dr. Arthur Frank's relationship with GlaxoSmithKline in a Feb. 8 article announcing their new over-the-counter diet drug Alli. Undisclosed were Frank's additional industry ties to Knoll, Roche, Amgen, and Johnson and Johnson.
  • Cheers: An Inside Higher Ed article noted a recent judicial decision that singled out University of California at Los Angeles cancer researcher James Enstrom, who received money from Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds for a study published in the British Medical Journal that challenged the harmful effects of smoking and second-hand smoke.
  • Cheers: In an opinion piece in the Roanoke Times, journalism teacher David Campbell chastised the paper for using the Heartland Institute and the Oregon Petition as sources on global warming without noting that these organizations have received more than $1 million from ExxonMobil. However, the oil giant has recently stopped funding some global warming skeptics.
  • Jeers: As the fallout from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report continued last week, several publications continued to cite skeptics without mentioning their ties to the energy industry, including the the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Investor's Business Daily, Nature (subscription required), Newsweek, Oklahoma City Oklahoman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Reno Gazette-Journal, Riverside Press-Enterprise and Toledo Blade. The skeptics included Timothy Ball, a consultant of the Calgary-based Friends of Science, which receives one-third of its funding from the oil and gas industry; John Christy, who is affiliated with the Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute and Independent Institute, which all have received funding from ExxonMobil and other energy companies; Richard Lindzen, who is affiliated with several groups that receive funding from ExxonMobil including the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, Cato Institute, Tech Central Station and George C. Marshall Institute; Ross McKitrick, a senior fellow at the ExxonMobil-funded Fraser Institute and "expert" for the Marshall Institute; Joel Schwartz of the American Enterprise Institute, which has received more than $1.6 million from ExxonMobil; S. Fred Singer, who has received at least $85,000 from ExxonMobil.

Odds and Ends

British tycoon Richard Branson and former Vice President Al Gore last week announced a $25 million prize for the first person to find a way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere, the New York Times reported.